Looks like the Ford is actually getting the kinks worked out of its new-fangled electromagnetic cats and upgraded arresting gear.
From the NAVY:
ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) — An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, landed aboard USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck marking the 1,000th recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft using Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) March 19, 2020, at 5:13 p.m.
Minutes later, the crew celebrated a second milestone launching an F/A18 E Super Hornet attached to “Warhawks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97 from Ford’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) catapults for the 1,000th time.
This significant milestone in the ships’ history began on July 28, 2017, with Ford’s first fixed-wing recovery and launch using its first-in-class AAG and EMALS technologies.
Capt. J.J. “Yank” Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer, explained how the entire Ford crew has worked together over the last few years to reach this achievement.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew, their motivation is amazing,” said Cummings. “We’ve been working extremely hard to get here today, and to see this 1,000th trap completely validates their efforts and the technology on this warship.”
Boasting the Navy’s first major design investment in aircraft carriers since the 1960s, Ford’s AAG and EMALs support greater launch and recovery energy requirements of future air wings, increasing the safety margin over legacy launch and arresting gear found on Nimitz-class carriers.
Lt. Scott Gallagher, assigned to VFA 34, has landed on five other carriers but became a part of Ford’s history with his, and the ship’s 1,000, recovery.
“There are a lot of people who are working night and day to make sure that this ship is ready to go be a warship out in the world,” said Gallagher. “To be a part of that, and this deck certification is super cool. Also getting the 1,000th trap helps the ship get one step closer to being the warship that it needs to be.”
Capt. Joshua Sager, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, explained why his squadron’s integration with the ship’s personnel is important and how their relationship impacts operations.
“It’s great to share this moment in history with Ford. Integration between the air wing and ship’s company is crucial to the everyday success of carrier operations,” said Sager. “Completion of the 1,000th catapult and arrestment shows that the ship and her crew have tested and proven the newest technology the Navy has, and together we are ready to meet the operational requirements of our nation.”
With 1,000 launches and recoveries complete, Ford will continue its flight deck and combat air traffic control certifications in preparation to deliver to the fleet regular flight operations in support of East Coast carrier qualifications.
The new aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been getting lots of knocks in the past few years and with good reason. Commissioned, 22 July 2017, now going on three years in service, and she has been far from being considered “fleet ready” with tons of post-delivery updates and modifications that have been pushed through as shakedown and availability proved many of the ship’s vital systems to include her cats, traps, and elevators, just plain didn’t work.
(A)SECNAV Thomas Modly on getting the ship on track and getting it right.
However, as a sign of improvements, Ford just completed Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT) Jan. 31, following 16 days at sea, during which the crew launched and recovered 211 aircraft, testing five different airframes, using first-generation, state-of-the-art flight deck systems.
As noted by the Navy: “This second and final round of testing validated the ship’s capability to launch and to recover aircraft with ordnance loadout and fuel states mirroring deployed requirements and operating tempos, using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG)—two Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford.”
By completing T-45 testing, the Ford will be able to provide carrier qualification support to the Training Command and to student naval aviators in the jet/E-2/C-2 pipeline.
“There are so many firsts happening, and many of them we frankly don’t even really realize,” explained Ford’s Air Boss, Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem toward the end of the testing evolution. “We’ve had the first-ever T-45, EA-18 Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, and C-2A Greyhound, and there are pilots on board this ship right now who will forever be able to say that their contribution to the Navy was to be the first pilot or NFO [Naval Flight Officer] to come aboard the Gerald R. Ford-class in that type aircraft.”
Just the Ford making some high-speed turns on 29 October. Looks pretty good for a carrier that has been sidelined for the past 15 months in
post-delivery repairs err, post-shakedown availability.
Hopefully she will meet the Navy’s new guideline of being operational “well before” 2024.
Note the extensive arrays on her island.
Over the weekend in the freshwater Great Lakes harbor at Burns Harbor, Indiana, USS Indianapolis (LCS-17), the latest Freedom-class littoral combat ship, commissioned. She is the fourth such vessel, and second surface combatant, to carry the moniker. While I would personally have liked to see a cruiser, LHA, or destroyer carry the name due to the legacy of CA-58, the second Indianapolis, I am nonetheless happy to see the name on the Navy list once again. Indy is the 19th LCS to be commissioned and is expected to be assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two in Mayport. She is the fifth such Freedom assigned to LCSRON2.
Elsewhere in U.S. Navy news last week, the latest Virginia-class attack submarine, PCU USS Delaware (SSN 791) was delivered to the Navy by Ingalls. Notably, when she is fully commissioned as the 7th Delaware, it will end a nearly century-long drought on the Navy List for that name which was last issued to Battleship No. 28 in 1909, a vessel that was broken up for scrap under the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. SSN-791 is the 18th Virginia and last of the Block III boats.
USS Gerald R. Ford
Further, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) finally departed Newport News Shipbuilding and returned to sea for the first time since beginning their post-shakedown availability in July 2018 (!) to get back to the business of conducting sea trials, now well over a year since she was commissioned. Navy officials hope she will be ready for regular fleet service by 2024.
John S. McCain
Speaking of gone for a while, USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is underway to conduct comprehensive at-sea testing. She has been sidelined for repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last two years, following a collision in August 2017.
“This whole crew is eager to get back to sea, and that’s evident in the efforts they’ve made over the last two years to bring the ship back to fighting shape, and the energy they’ve put into preparing themselves for the rigors of at-sea operations,” said CDR Ryan T. Easterday, John S. McCain‘s commanding officer. “I’m extremely proud of them as we return the ship to sea, and return to the operational fleet more ready than ever to support security and stability throughout the region.”
And in South Pacific news, the planned 75-year lease on the entire island of Tulagi (Tulaghi) in the Solomon Islands looks like it is going to fall through. Well known to students of WWII, the Japanese occupied Tulagi in May 1942 in the days just before the Battle of the Coral Sea and was captured by the 1st Marine Raiders that August, forming an important PT-boat base during the Guadalcanal Campaign (JFK’s PT-109, part of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2, operated from there.) They proved important in winning control of “The Slot” during that campaign. Likewise, if the Japanese had held Tulagi that summer, the whole operation would have been just that much harder to pull off.
As the crow flies, Tulagi could have been a strategic key to that part of the region as it is directly between Hawaii and Australia. This is especially true if you could pick up those keys for cheap on an extended multi-generational lease.
”I want to applaud the decision of the Solomon Islands attorney general to invalidate the Chinese effort to lease the island of Tulagi for 75 years,” said Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper. “This is an important decision to reinforce sovereignty, transparency, and the rule of law. Many nations in the Pacific have discovered far too late that Chinese use of economic and military levers to expand their influence often is detrimental to them and their people.”
The Navy recently validated a software fix for the revolutionary Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System used on the latest batch of supercarriers. This resulted in the first cat and trap when an F/A-18F Super Hornet (BuNo #166969) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Jamie “Coach” Struck, being launched and recovered on the flight deck of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) 28 July 2017. Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.